Beware booking tours in Panama.....!

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#1
somewhere near a cruise port
713 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
MY Mother in Law was in Panama this past week on a cruise from RCCL and some 50 passengers book an excursion w an independent tour operator instead of the cruise line ...they were heading to the tour when a group of men stopped their van and they all got robbed. lost passports,cameras, money ,jewelry etc.
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#2
2,887 Posts
Joined Nov 2000
I hope everyone was okay! Do you know which independent tour operator or which tour they were doing? Something more remote vs something more popular?
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#4
Florida
5,375 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Not a lot of details such as the tour operator or the ship, but here is a link......

http://www.panama-guide.com/article....81212185014926
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#5
2,887 Posts
Joined Nov 2000
Thank you for sharing the link.
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#6
NE Ohio
1,233 Posts
Joined Apr 2006
This article did not say which cruise line. It could not have been Royal Caribbean. They do not allow anyone to get off the ship in Panama unless they booked it through them. They can control this since the ship is anchored in Gatun Lake. You must have excursion tickets to take the tender to shore.

The ship docks at the pier for several hours after 3:00pm. If this tour was then, they would have missed the ship leaving.

Just did the Panama Canal is December on RCCL-Jewel.

From my understanding most ship do not allow private excursions in Panama for the same reasons.
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#7
2,887 Posts
Joined Nov 2000
Originally posted by abhb

From my understanding most ship do not allow private excursions in Panama for the same reasons.
Carnival Freedom does allow it... anyone can get off for whatever shore excursion. Does not have to be a ship's excursion at all. I had been booked on the Freedom for March up until a couple days prior to final payment, which is why I had been curious about this thread...
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Previous: 03/17 RCCL Liberty of Seas, 11/16 Celebrity Infinity (full Panama Canal transit), 05/16 Fathom, 04/16 NCL Escape, 03/16 NCL Dawn, 11/21/15 NCL Jade, 11/30/15 NCL Sky (15th anniversary of cruising - same stateroom!), 01/16 DCL Wonder, 05/14 Carnival Dream , 08/14 Norwegian Star - Baltics from Copenhagen , 09/14 Westbound Transatlantic on Disney Magic BCN-SJU
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#9
Preston
6 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
Originally posted by MandyGirl
Carnival Freedom does allow it... anyone can get off for whatever shore excursion. Does not have to be a ship's excursion at all. I had been booked on the Freedom for March up until a couple days prior to final payment, which is why I had been curious about this thread...
I was reading a few articles about this too, and some cruise lines companies let you book with private agencies.
#10
Coral Springs, FL
1,274 Posts
Joined May 2001
But why couldn't an excursion booked and taken with the cruiseline NOT get held up? If the independent went into an area that is dangeous, that is one thing but I am sure it can happen anywhere anytime, no?
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#11
St. Louis, MO, USA
4,293 Posts
Joined Jan 2002
I agree totally w/drdaddy. It's not like there are armed guards on the cruiseline's tours. Even if there were, you just never know . . .!) Smart things to do are: don't wear ANY "real" jewelry or a "good" watch; take very little money w/you; use a disposable camera; have a little "mixed" money you can turn over if confronted; and if you feel you MUST bring money, you can TRY sticking a few bills in your sock or pin it to the inside of your shorts or pants in a place where it's not likely to be noticed much. Or maybe you can "stash" it to the bottom of your bus seat w/elec. tape or something. Just don't forget it!
#12
118 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
I think the implication here is that a private guide could be part of the heist by telling the robbers where and when they will be and getting paid to do so. You would hope that scenario would be less likely with a ship sponsored outing.
#13
962 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
As I was reading this thread I kept wondering the same as others, why would a tour booked through the ship not get held up and others do. But then again the ship may be very careful who they book with and that company could face consequences if security for the tourists is compromised, like losing the business. You just never know, maybe the tour operator alerted the thieves as to the route they would be taking. We usually take little cash, mostly credit cards that can be cancelled. When we have carried cash, we put a little bit in different areas of the body. I know this is not funny, but just picturing the tourists taking photos of the thieves....
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#14
Northern Greater Cincinnati
550 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
Originally posted by drdaddy
But why couldn't an excursion booked and taken with the cruiseline NOT get held up? If the independent went into an area that is dangeous, that is one thing but I am sure it can happen anywhere anytime, no?
I did the Canal Experience with HAL-Zuiderdam in mid December. Once we got back on our buses (4 filled) and headed for the ship, we had a 2 car police escort for more than 45 minutes of an anticipated 2 hour ride. The ride only took 1:45 with the escort. We also traveled with an empty bus which was provided as a back up, if one of the other buses broke down. I'd say we really got our money's worth!
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Zuiderdam Dec 2008
Veendam May 2006
#15
Bedford, New Hampshire
129 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
Unfortunately this kind of thing is a fact of life in that part of the world. Costa Rica is another place big on highway hold-ups. Unfortunately, use of cruise-line excursions is not a guarantee. Two years ago a cruise-line sponsored excursion bus was boarded by two armed gunmen. The passengers eventually overpowered them (and in fact killed one). Costa Rican authorities thanked them and sent them back to the ship in time to depart. As in travel everywhere, it pays to be aware of your surroundings, always pay attention and blend in as best you can. If you book an independent tour, be sure you know who you are dealing with.
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My first cruise was on RMS Carinthia (Transatlantic) at age of 3, been loving it ever since!
#16
Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
1,194 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
Unfortunately this kind of thing is a fact of life in that part of the world. Costa Rica is another place big on highway hold-ups. Unfortunately, use of cruise-line excursions is not a guarantee. Two years ago a cruise-line sponsored excursion bus was boarded by two armed gunmen. The passengers eventually overpowered them (and in fact killed one). Costa Rican authorities thanked them and sent them back to the ship in time to depart. As in travel everywhere, it pays to be aware of your surroundings, always pay attention and blend in as best you can. If you book an independent tour, be sure you know who you are dealing with
First,neither Costa Rica nor Panama are "third world", unless you define everything outside of your comfort zone as "third world." Both are definitely "second world" moving toward "first world."

This type of thing is NOT common! "Two years ago. . ." in Costa Rica. Common? This type of thing happens in New York, New Orleans, everywhere there are poor people who see a bunch of rich tourists as targets. I believe the incident in Costa Rica "two years ago" was a group of independent travelers from a Carnival ship who were doing their own thing and asked to be taken to a "remote beach." Dah! Both of these countries value tourists and make every attempt to take great care of them. On a recent ship Embera tour from Madden Lake where these independent tourists encountered problems I noticed that there was a uniformed tourist policeman with us, as well as a plain clothes policeman.

You are right that a tour purchased through the ship is not a "guarantee" - ever read your "cruise contract" lately? - the cruise lines do pick the best and most reliable operators and if there is reason for safety concerns will either not use that operator or tour, or even not go to the port at all. When you choose to be "on your own" you are "on your own."

As in travel everywhere, it pays to be aware of your surroundings, always pay attention and blend in as best you can. If you book an independent tour, be sure you know who you are dealing with
. . . EXCELLENT ADVICE!

Regards, Richard
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Richard Detrich - Port & Canal Lecturer & Author
#17
Bedford, New Hampshire
129 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
Richard, you are right and I guess I should have been more careful in my use of terms. I apologize if I offended. These types of things do indeed occur everywhere. My, not very well made, point was that there are no guarantees and to not think you are in your backyard when travelling abroad. I have extensive international travel experience, both pleasure and business (including a couple of real third world countries) and one of my pet peeves has always been Americans thinking the world should adapt to them rather than them trying to fit in to the country they are visiting. Thanks for the clarification.

As an aside, are you going to be on board the Zuiderdam at the end of March? I've read wonderful reviews on your Panama talks, and we are really looking forward to the trip.
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My first cruise was on RMS Carinthia (Transatlantic) at age of 3, been loving it ever since!
#18
Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
1,194 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
dpm321, Hey, great! Look forward to meeting you. You can give the speech about being "street smart" and leaving all your Rolexes and diamond tennis bracelets in your safe on board the ship! Regards, Richard
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Richard Detrich - Port & Canal Lecturer & Author
#19
somewhere near a cruise port
713 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by BillB48
Not a lot of details such as the tour operator or the ship, but here is a link......

http://www.panama-guide.com/article....81212185014926


This is the tour I was talking about my mother in law was in that ship at the time...the persons injured were her friends .
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#20
West Virginia
415 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
WOW, I just happened upon this thread. Just returned last week, did not take a tour. Just got off the ship for a little while at the port. Was suprised to find an armed guard (shotgun) at the entrance to the grocery store. My Mom overheard some passengers talking about being on a tour and being stopped by the police; and everyone had to give $5.00 to cotinue on the tour.
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